It’s been several months since I was last in a darkroom.
For me, scanning all my black and white negatives is just not the same as the physical process of producing prints in the darkroom. Not to mention the beautiful contact sheets I love producing!
Some of you may remember from one of my previous blog posts that I had to unfortunately give up my membership at the community darkroom I had joined in Brighton because it was the other side of town to where I live and it was taking me well over an hour each way to get there and back home during the week and even longer at the weekend due to a reduced bus service since I don’t drive.
On top of that, I also had to find a convenient time around all the other community members who used the darkroom. Some weeks I couldn’t find an available time slot suitable for me around work which could be frustrating.
In the end, the travelling plus having to find a convenient time slot around the other community members took up too much of my precious darkroom time which, I had to carefully plan around my full time job.
There wasn’t really anywhere suitable at home where I could permanently leave a darkroom and I’m not really comfortable with using all those chemicals in my bathroom. Towards the end of last year, I found a new premises to move my Knitwear Studio to (I’m a Knitwear Designer) where I could incorporate the darkroom too with sinks and fridges etc.
I was hoping to have been moved in by now but it’s unfortunately taken longer than planned to actually move there.
I’ve got most of the equipment I need for the new darkroom. To begin with I’m going to be using the Intrepid Enlarger so I’m really looking forward to trying it out!
I’m hoping over the next few months I’ll finally have my darkroom ready so I can get back to printing my photos again in the convenience of a location which is close to where I live and I’ll easily be able to find time to do it around my busy job.
I’ll be blogging about the set up and how I get on using the Intrepid Enlarger.
I’ve got all the different negative slides for the enlarger so I’ll be able to print large format, medium format and 35mm which is quite exciting.
I’m also looking forward to the whole experience of setting up my very own darkroom!
In my previous blog post I mentioned that I wanted to turn some of my sheep photos into prints so that I could frame them and put them up in my knitwear studio.
On Saturday I had some time to visit the darkroom and I am pleased to report I managed to successfully do some 8 x 10 resin coated prints.
You’ll see from the cover photo, that I initially printed a contact sheet and selected several photos I’d possibly like to develop into prints. In the end, after lots and lots of test strips, I printed a total of three photos.
Here are the first two I enlarged from the 6 x 6 negatives into prints:
In the next print I decided that the people in the background were a distraction and didn’t quite fit in with the two previous prints I had done:
I therefore cropped the original photo on the enlarger so the final print showed just the sheep:
This did mean that less of the closest sheep was shown in my cropped photo but I actually didn’t mind this since I had a similar thing happening in the first print so felt it helped towards the cohesiveness of the three photos.
Needless to say, I am absolutely thrilled with these prints and am really excited about framing them and putting them up on the wall of my knitwear studio.
I recently learnt that a majority of people who produce their own silver gelatin prints in the darkroom have to re-touch their photos.
Unfortunately, no matter how much care I take in keeping my darkroom environment as dust free as possible, it seems to be inevitable that dust marks still show on my prints.
The main issues I’m having with dust in my prints are largely down to using a Condenser enlarger (the Durst DA900) which show up any spec of dust so will need spot retouching afterwards.
There is also another type of enlarger called a diffuser enlarger and these types of enlarger give a slightly softer image than a condenser enlarger but they also don’t show up the dust the way a condenser enlarger does.
Since I belong to a community darkroom with only one enlarger, I don’t have the choice of being able to use the diffuser type of enlarger. However, I do like the enlarger I currently use due to the sharpness of the images it produces.
After researching online about how to avoid such marks, I realised that I would need to look at retouching them myself after the final stage of printing and drying.
I found some paints by Fotospeed which are made specifically for this purpose in black and white photos.
I also learnt that a sable hair brush would be best for applying the paint to the photos and I decided to use a 000 sable hair brush which I purchased from my local art store as I figured a finer brush would be more subtle for spotting/retouching my prints.
I unfortunately couldn’t find much information about the best way of applying the paint to my photos, although I did find one video on youtube but it wasn’t using the particular brand of paint I’m using.
I recently printed this Windmill photo which I took in Rye, East Sussex using my Hasselblad 500 C/M camera and Fomapan 200 black and white film.
As you can see, the sky is very grey in this photo and there are quite a few marks due to dust in the print. I therefore thought this would be a good print to test out the retouching technique.
The photo is printed on Ilford Resin Coated Multigrade IV Pearl paper and I printed a couple of copies to help me practice.
I learnt from the youtube video I watched that it’s best to put out the paints onto a white ceramic plate then slowly mix/blend until the shades match the part of the photo I’m trying to re-touch and apply the paint.
This actually was quite difficult to do on my first attempt and I’m not overly impressed with the results:
You’ll see that I’ve been quite heavy handed in areas and the paint is darker than I would have liked.
I’ve realised that whilst I started the process slowly, I began to get a little impatient and when I wasn’t seeing much progress in adding the paint, I started to make it darker too quickly which I think was my big mistake.
I also think I picked quite a difficult photo for my first attempt since there were quite a lot of marks on it to re-touch.
I still need to do some more research into the best way of retouching my final prints and I definitely need to practice a lot more to hopefully reach a skill level where I’m happy with the standard of the print re-touch.
In one of my latest Darkroom sessions I decided I wanted to enlarge a photo I’d taken of some logs which were outside a house I was staying at during a recent visit to Rye.
I had taken this photo using my Hasselblad 500 C/M camera and some Fomapan Creative 200 ISO black and white film.
I used Ilford IV Multigrade Resin Coated Pearl paper to make my prints. In the first print I made I used a 2 1/2 Contrast Filter and exposed the print for 5 seconds:
I was quite happy with the detail in the top half of the photo but I felt the detail was lacking somewhat in the lower part of the photo on the logs.
It was a bright, sunny day when I took the photo and I didn’t have a lens shade at that point to use on my camera. The lower logs were more exposed to the sunlight.
I therefore decided that this would be a good photo to try out the ‘burning in’ technique. I exposed my next print again with the same contrast filter and exposure time. However, this time I hovered some paper over the top part of the image and exposed the lower part of the photo to a further 5 seconds and this was the result:
I was pleased to see that the lower part of the photo was starting to show more detail in the logs. However, I felt the contrast filter I was using was lighting the lower logs a bit too much.
In the next print I decided to remove the contrast filter completely but I still ‘burned in’ the photo the same way as I had done for the second print and here is the result:
I liked the fact that you can see more detail in the lower logs but by not using a contrast filter, it made the photo darker overall. I also still had the problem of the little log that looks almost white in all of the photos. Although there was minimal detail on the actual negative of this log.
Perhaps I could perfect this photo even further but I wasn’t sure what would be next best to try. I don’t think I wanted to try any other contrast filters and all I could think is that I try ‘burning in’ some smaller areas a bit more.
A couple of weeks ago during one of my darkroom sessions, I decided to do an enlargement of a black and white fishing boat photo I had recently taken at Brighton Marina.
I currently use the Ilford Multigrade IV RC De Luxe photographic paper in an 8x10in size since I think this is a great photo paper for beginners and also I can use the Ilford contrast filters on it.
I used a masking frame easel whilst doing the enlargement and in my first print I came across some darkness at the bottom left hand corner of the white border:
I did another print and still had the same problem as in the above photo. I’m always very careful in packing the photographic paper away before putting the white light back on and I thought to myself that it must be a masking frame issue since I had never used this particular masking frame before.
I therefore taped the corner of the masking frame down from where this problem was occurring and was still getting the same black mark.
After several prints and much frustration wondering why the masking frame was not working correctly, I then made this print which ended up being a slightly different black mark to the other prints:
I then began to question whether it was a photographic paper issue after all and not the masking frame as I had initially thought.
Before making these enlargements, I had printed a contact sheet of some beach shots I had taken using my Hasselblad 500 C/M camera as I had recently got the developed film back from my local lab.
I decided to look closely at the the contact sheet and immediately saw the same issue in the corner:
At this point, I knew that it was definitely a paper issue and although I thought I had been careful with not exposing my photographic paper to white light, at some point, I must have not bagged this particular corner of the paper up properly so the whole batch of what was left must have got exposed.
Thankfully all was not lost as I was able to trim down the border to still have a nice print since it wasn’t on the main photo. I was also glad that I found out what the problem was as that was frustrating me the most.
All was not lost with the remaining photographic paper left either as I was able to cut the remainder of it up and use it for test strips.
I’m really hoping I’ll never make this mistake again and I now triple check I’ve wrapped up that photo paper properly before turning on the white light!
I was thinking today about the satisfaction I’ve had recently in being able to produce silver gelatin prints in the darkroom for gifts.
Whilst I appreciate that it’s a very personal thing to decide what photos you would like on display in your home, I’ve only gifted a couple of photos so far, to people who I know would love them and would definitely have them on display.
The first silver gelatin print I gifted was to my friend Clive, who went away with me last year to Singapore when we watched the Formula 1 Grand Prix there.
It was an amazing trip away and I managed to take a nice photo of Singapore using the zoom lens on my Pentax K1000 camera and Kentmere 100 black and white film.
I really liked the photo when I got it developed and practiced printing it on silver gelatin paper at my second black and white photography course at Varndean college. Here is a scanned copy of the print I did using a 3.5 Contrast Filter:
Clive saw the photo and really liked it. He had recently moved houses and said how lovely that picture would look framed up in his home office.
I therefore mounted it using white card and framed it in a nice black frame and gave it to Clive and he was really happy with it. It also felt like a nice moving in gift to his new home.
The second photo I gifted was to my husband today as it’s his birthday.
He is actually quite a difficult person to buy gifts for since he never really wants anything and if he does, he just buys it himself.
In the past I’ve taken him away on holiday for his birthday but due to current work commitments, he cannot take any time off work in the near future so I knew I wouldn’t be able to do this for him at the moment.
In fact, I think I felt more sad for him than he did at going to work today.
A couple of weeks ago, I had been practicing portrait shots with him using my Hasselblad 500 C/M camera and some Rollei RPX 400 black and white film.
I particularly liked a picture I’d taken of him cuddling our dog so decided yesterday when I was in the darkroom to make an enlargement of it.
Early this morning before he got up for work, I placed the photo on the mantel piece in our living room for him to see.
I’m pleased to say he really loved it and left for work with a big smile on his face. That was a great feeling for me knowing how happy I’d made him and I knew that photo meant more to him than anything material I could have bought.
I attached a copy of the photo in the blog heading but here it is again:
I suppose it’s quite obvious that there will be differences in a photo from being scanned onto a computer compared to if you print a copy of it in the darkroom.
I really noticed a difference in the contrast in a couple of my photos this week that I’d originally scanned using my Epson V600 scanner and then developed copies in the darkroom.
These photos were taken using my Hasselblad 500 C/M Camera and Ilford Delta 400 film.
The first image was of a close up of a tombstone in the shape of a cross with a tree in the background. Here is the original image that I scanned on my Epson V600 scanner:
I didn’t tweak the original scan as I was happy with the original exposure. As you can see, it isn’t high in contrast and there are many subtle shades of grey which is what I would have expected from the Ilford Delta 400 film.
I’m not sure what I was expecting when I decided to print an enlargement in the darkroom but I was surprised by how different the contrast and tones were:
I cropped the photo slightly as I wanted more focus on the tombstone and tree and I felt the extra detail on the right hand side of more trees took attention away from this. The biggest difference I noted though was how much darker the trees and shadow detail were. Also, the grass, tombstones and background detail were left with really nice shades of grey.
I next decided to do an enlargement of a tree image I’d taken on the same roll of film with the sun shining through the trees. I was keen to see how this would look in a print. Here is the original photo I scanned on my Epson V600 scanner:
I made no amendments to this photo at the scanning stage as I was happy with the exposure. As before, the photo consists of various shades of grey with no real contrast.
Here is the same image which I printed in the darkroom:
Once again, I cropped the image, this time on the left hand side because I wanted more focus on the two big trees with the sun shining through. You’ll notice that the greys are much darker on this print compared to the original scan. I’ve also lost the grey detail from the sky which was in the original scan. This gives the image a lot more contrast.
I used Ilford chemicals to develop both prints and also Ilford Multigrade IV RC Deluxe Pearl 8×10 paper. I exposed both images for 1 minute and I didn’t use any contrast filters.
Personally I prefer the darkroom prints over the original scanned images. I’m very keen on contrast in my photos as I feel this adds to the dramatic effect I wanted to achieve in these particular images I took.
Perhaps I could have achieved this effect too on the scanner by changing the contrast but I am just surprised by how different they look in print.
I’m very grateful to have access to a darkroom and I get so much satisfaction in seeing my images almost come to life in print instead of just looking at them on the screen.
I’ve also enjoyed messing about cropping my images to see how different it can make my photo look.
Needless to say, there are many more prints that I now want to develop in the darkroom to see how different they look compared to my original scanned images.
Lastly, the darkroom prints have also been scanned onto the computer using my Epson V600 scanner and they look the same as the actual print.
Since the beginning of my journey into film photography last April, I knew at some point, if the passion didn’t fade, that I would want to invest in a higher end film camera.
I had originally started off with my beloved Pentax K1000 as I knew I wanted a 35mm SLR camera and since this is a fully manual camera, I learnt lots about Aperture in relation to Shutter Speed and ISO with the help of the built in light meter in the camera.
Apart from my investment in some nice instant cameras such as the Leica Sofort and Polaroid SX-70 I suppose my next investment and step up into a film camera was my much loved Olympus Pen FT half frame camera. I love this camera and the image quality it produces.
In recent months I’ve been really getting into medium format photography. I really love having to think about my composition and how it can work into the square style box.
I think I must have a thing for composing a photo in a slightly different photo size as this is what I love about composing shots with the my Olympus FT.
I suppose my love of the medium format style photos first began when I bought a Diana F+ Camera cheaply on eBay.
As the months progressed I then bought another Lomography style camera, the Lubitel 166B which was originally meant to be a present for my husband as he had taken an interest in this camera but couldn’t get on with it when he tried it so I persevered and began using it.
I love the square format of the photos and I was starting to use more black and white film in it since I knew I wanted to do more darkroom work.
I always thought when investing in a high end camera it may be one of the Leica 35mm film cameras but my heart was telling me to invest in a medium format camera.
As we all know, there is so much choice in the medium format world. You can get fairly decent medium format film cameras ranging from a few hundred pounds right up to thousands of pounds.
If you had asked me in the summer of last year which high end medium format camera I would ever consider buying, I would have said the Pentax 67 which isn’t technically square but I was already in love with Pentax since owning the K1000 and thought I would love the fact the camera style and viewfinder can be used like a 35mm SLR camera.
However, I was fortunate enough to try out somebody’s Pentax 67 camera last year during a photography walk in Brighton. I knew instantly that it wasn’t for me. The main reason……because it was too heavy and big! I really struggled to hold that camera up to my eye and I knew that I would never use it or take it out with me if I owned one.
I had always thought that I would never like a ‘shoot from the hip’ style camera as that just seemed too weird to me to take a photo. However, after using the Lubitel 166B, I realised I loved taking photos in this way which I was really surprised at!
I then looked at potentially investing in a decent TLR camera and again was fortunate enough to have a friend who owns a decent Yashica TLR. However, on trying this, the dial placement just didn’t feel natural to me. I can’t really explain why as the picture quality and image in the viewfinder was much better than the Lubitel but I wasn’t falling in love with it. Also, I knew at some point I would like the option of interchangeable lenses. I know some of the TLR’s have this option but I just wasn’t feeling it.
I then looked at the various Bronica’s and Kiev’s at my local camera shop. Clocktower Camera’s had several for sale but again, on looking at each one, I just wasn’t feeling them.
I’m sure there are still loads and loads of medium format cameras I could have tried but by this point I started to consider the Mamiya and Hasselblad cameras.
Whilst I think the Hasselblad camera looks extremely stylish and I love the modular system, I really thought it wouldn’t be the camera for me either. Nowhere locally had one for me to try out and I didn’t know anyone that owned one although one of my friends used to own one years ago and told me how great they were.
Back in December I met up with one of my camera buddies for taking photos around London and we decided to head to the Camera Museum in Museum Street in Holborn so I could check out their Hasselblad collection as they specialise in repairing Hasselblad’s and also sell them.
The staff were really helpful in there and talked me through the different Hasselblad cameras from the more modern ones, to the V series.
Once I held one of the V series one’s (the 500 C/M to be exact) I instantly fell in love! I had seen the prices so knew I would only want to spend within the budget of the 500 C or C/M and I liked the fact they are fully manual which is what I personally look for in a film camera.
I was amazed at how light weight it was for a decent medium format camera! I was easily able to hold it with my left hand and turn the lens and fire the shutter with my right. It felt great. I loved the viewfinder which was very bright and clear, almost like looking at a television screen. The whole camera felt very natural to me.
The quality of the camera was amazing, it felt well built and not at all plastic.
I was very honest with the camera shop and admitted I didn’t have the funds to buy one there and then but that didn’t seem to bother them with the time they took going through the various camera’s with me which was lovely and helpful of them.
Even if I had the funds there and then I would have held back from purchasing one because I knew I needed to do more research. Also, the 500 C/M model from 1981 that I tried in the shop wasn’t in the best of condition cosmetically (although the price they were selling it for reflected that).
I had a lot of chats with different people about the Hasselblad cameras including one of my ex photography tutors who is also a professional photographer and does freelance work for companies such as Sunseeker Yachts and I really like his photography so I value his opinion. He knows my style of photography and also knows you can take photos hand held with this camera and he couldn’t find a bad word to say about this camera either. He also checked with a friend who owned a 500 C/M for quite a number of years before moving to digital and he also only had great things to say about the photo quality and use of the camera etc.
My ex tutor did say that for several hundred less the Bronica’s are quite good but he said I need to go with what I’m feeling and if I settled for a Bronica, I would only end up pining for a Hasselblad so would never be quite happy with the Bronica and I agreed with him.
I could have easily bought a Bronica since I had sufficient funds for one of those but I decided to be patient and save for the Hasselblad.
By this point I had also decided the Mamiya wasn’t for me. Although I had done much research on the different models and heard great things about those camera’s which I know are used by a lot of professional film photographers today. I suppose we have to just listen to what we would like rather than what everyone tells us is best for us and what we should like. Quite frankly my gut told me, buy the Hasselblad.
Through out January, I sold off a load of stuff I’d been meaning to sell for the past year and now I finally had an incentive to do it.
By last week I had made enough money to buy a Hasselblad 500.
I had already decided in my research that I wouldn’t buy a 500C, purely because I wouldn’t be able to change the viewfinder myself and I knew this may be something I possibly would want to change for a particular type of project at some point so it was going to be a C/M model.
I next had to decide on the type of lens as I initially liked the look of the original Chrome lenses but after further chats with the guys at the Camera Museum I discovered that they don’t have the special multicoated layer on the lens so I wouldn’t get as much contrast on clouds etc as I would with a later C T* lens (which are black not chrome). There is also a slightly later lens known as the CF and I was told the image quality wouldn’t be any different to the C T* but it just turned differently so it was personal preference on what style I would like out of these two. The CF lens is also a bit bigger which put me off and is also slightly more expensive so as a newbie to the Hasselblad system, I was quite happy to have a C T* lens when I bought my camera. I also knew for now, I would be happy with the standard 80mm lens since I had tried out the different size mm lenses (from the more zoom type to the wider angle) at the shop and got an idea of the scope of photo I could take through each one.
I already knew that I wanted to buy my camera from the Camera Museum, as they had been really helpful. Also, they provide new light seals with every second hand camera (which would normally cost £80 plus VAT if you asked them to do these for one of your Hasselblad’s) and they provide a 6 month warranty in case of any failures in the camera.
Since I would be spending quite a bit of money, I knew I wanted a warranty. I also knew I wouldn’t be getting any bargains on eBay or Gumtree as they were all going for the same price as what the Camera Museum was charging, if not more on some of them!
Whilst saving for one, the Camera Museum had listed a 500 C/M model for sale which was in a condition I was happy with (unlike the one I viewed in December). This particular model was from 1978 which again, I was happy with. After having a chat with them on Wednesday, I got on a train that morning and tried it out. I spent over an hour with them going through the workings of it. I was extremely impressed by the overall condition, especially the back curtains as you can see in the photo below:
We went through all the shutter speeds which seemed to work perfectly. I was also warned about potentially jamming the camera if I take the lens off and it’s been fired and the camera hasn’t etc so I need to make sure they all match before putting back together. So currently I’m a bit scared of accidentally doing this but hopefully I won’t!
Needless to say I purchased the camera along with a nice original thick Hasselblad strap in excellent condition to give me good support as again, the joys of visiting an actual shop rather than buying the camera online meant that I could try out various straps. I had liked the look of the thin leather strap but after trying it, the camera easily slipped off my shoulder and it just didn’t feel that well supported so I knew that I would need the thicker strap.
They also gave me a free black and white film which I loaded into the camera in front of them so they could make sure I did this properly. It also meant I was ready to go and shoot. I would have loved to have taken some shots in London but I had to rush back to Brighton on the train before rush hour ensued so I used the film locally.
I’ve since got the roll of film developed and am extremely happy with the results. I’ll be blogging about this separately since this blog is really long so thank you to everybody who has taken the time to read it.
For anybody interested in purchasing a Hasselblad, accessories or who would like some more information about the camera or getting a repair done, their website is:
In one of my previous blogs I mentioned my obsession with printing contact sheets which I had been doing for 35mm negatives and I had a Paterson Proof Printer specially for this.
Since I’ve recently been getting more into medium format photography and when I knew I was going to continue to do prints in a darkroom, I decided to invest in a 120mm Proof Printer from Paterson.
I bought mine brand new on eBay since I struggled to find any second hand ones at a cheaper price in this particular format.
I decided to try it out on my first session in the Brighton Community Darkroom.
However, I made a couple of mistakes. First of all I’m not sure if the mistakes were due to me concentrating so much on mixing up the chemicals and getting used to the enlarger but I’ll explain what I did.
Here is a picture of the first contact sheet I did:
I did the usual test strips first to check the exposure times etc. These photos were taken at Brighton Marina using my Lubitel 166B camera and JCH Streetpan 400 black and white 120mm film. The film is naturally high in contrast which I love.
The first mistake I made was not matching the negatives the correct way round in the proof printer. In my haste to get a contact sheet printed and check I was using the enlarger correctly, I had just put the negatives into the proof printer without really thinking about the direction etc which resulted in this print.
Also, I noticed that the end photo hadn’t quite printed fully. I was perplexed as to why this was and thought perhaps there was something wrong with the proof printer?
I re-read the instructions of how to use the proof printer (which quite honestly, is pretty self explanatory) but I thought I must be doing something wrong. I still couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong. I then read the instructions again and saw the key sentence that I originally must have kept skimming over when reading them originally and here is the mistake I made:
When I print the contact sheet, I was putting the 8 x 10 inch photo paper directly onto the grey sponge area then shutting down the top screen which contained the negatives and subsequently taking an enlargement:
What was happening was that the border where the hinge is on the front screen, was blocking part of the negative from transferring onto the paper, hence why I wasn’t getting the full photo.
Finally I realised from the instructions that I should have been placing the photo paper into the slot of the where the hinge is directly onto the negatives on the glass front:
I’m sure to most people this would seem really obvious, even without reading the instructions, and I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit I did this mistake, but I do tend to lack common sense sometimes!
Once I realised my mistakes, I decided to re-print these negatives again during another session in the darkroom.
I used a No 2 Contrast Filter and did a test strip using exposure times of 30 seconds:
From the test strip I decided on an exposure time of 2 1/2 minutes. Before I printed the whole contact sheet again, I did another test strip at the full 2 1/2 minutes exposure to check I was happy with that:
You’ll see that the last photo was much lighter but I have to make some compromises when doing a contact print so was happy with this and here is the final result:
First of all, I’m pleased I managed to get all the images the right way round! You’ll see that a couple of the photos are under exposed but at least I get an overview of the photos and can then choose which ones I’d possibly like to work on for enlarging into prints.
I’m very happy that I now know how to use the contact proof printer correctly and will be using it for all my black and white medium format negatives when I need to do a contact sheet.
I have now visited the Brighton Community Darkroom a couple of times since I joined and am slowly getting more familiar with the Durst DA 900 enlarger every time I use it.
Currently I’m managing to get there once a week and am spending approximately 4 hours there per session.
I was there yesterday afternoon and wanted to work on developing some prints from my 120mm black and white negatives that I took on my Lubitel 166B Camera.
There was a really nice beach shot I recently took on a stormy day in Brighton and the waves were crashing against the sea defence wall and there were some clouds in the sky.
I’m still very much at the learning/experimental stage of my darkroom work so accept the fact that without a tutor on hand (like during my black and white photography course) I’m going to probably make many mistakes and waste a lot of paper.
Yesterday was my first time enlarging a 120mm negative print on the Durst DA 900 enlarger as in previous sessions I had been making contact sheets.
I was slightly nervous if I was actually going to do it correctly. I had an initial introduction to the enlarger by one of the helpful members of the community darkroom but that was a few weeks back so I wasn’t sure what I’d remember.
Thankfully, as well as an actual manual on the enlarger, there were some helpful notes provided to me by Paul who is one of the community members and in the notes he provided his recommended combination of condenser and lens that he feels work best depending on the size negative I’m doing an enlargement from.
Rather than going by the manual recommendation, I used Paul’s guidelines since he has experience of using this particular enlarger.
I therefore used a Unicon 105 Condenser lens and 105mm enlarger lens for the 120mm (6cm by 6cm) negatives.
After doing an initial test strip, here is the print I did with the aperture moved down a couple of stops from the brightest aperture to f/8:
You’ll see that its quite dark and doesn’t have much contrast. I also was annoyed at the fact there were dust/hair marks on the photo, which I hadn’t noticed on the negative. I currently use a cheap plastic air blower but I’m seriously considering investing in the more powerful aerosol type of blower as I think that will do a better job of getting rid of unwanted hair/dust as I don’t think my current one works very well.
I decided from this initial print that I wanted more contrast in the photo and also to be lighter.
I had learnt about contrast filters at my college course and thankfully the community darkroom has the Ilford Multigrade filters that I can add to the condenser lens.
I decided to try a No 3 contrast filter and again, did a test strip. I also removed best I could with the equipment I currently have, any unwanted hair/dust on the negative.
Here is the print I did with an exposure of 40 seconds:
This photo is much brighter than the original one I did but I’ve also lost all the cloud detail.
I looked at my test strip again and decided to do another print with the same No 3 contrast filter and a slightly longer exposure time of 50 seconds:
This resulted in a slightly darker photo (as you would expect) but there still wasn’t much cloud definition.
I decided at this point that I perhaps didn’t want so much contrast so changed the contrast filter to No 2 and did another test strip. I did the following photo with an exposure of 80 seconds:
I was much happier with this photo in the fact it was lighter than the original one I did and that it had the cloud definition.
I wanted to next experiment with a No 2.5 contrast filter just to see the difference but I unfortunately ran out of time in my darkroom session so will have to try that next time.
Although the photos aren’t perfect yet, I’m really enjoying the whole process of experimenting and the trial and error.
I noticed on this final photo that more dust had managed to somehow get onto the negative which shows in certain areas of the photo so I really do need to find a way of making sure I can fully clean the negative. I do also wear white fabric gloves when handling the negatives to avoid finger marks.
I look forward to blogging more about my darkroom sessions as I learn more.